You can do it
A poll conducted and published by YouGov this week saw the research firm ask British citizens whether they believed that they would be capable of winning a point in a tennis match against Serena Williams.
Bear in mind before we go any further that Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles throughout her career, one of which was achieved while she was pregnant with a child. She’s extremely good at tennis, even by the standard of brilliant tennis players.
That reality didn’t prevent one in eight (12 percent) of the men polled to answer that yes, they do believe they would be able to win a point in a tennis match against her. Three percent of women believed they could.
— YouGov (@YouGov) July 12, 2019
As with everything, the devil is in the detail, and the key caveat here is that YouGov clearly asked the participants if they could beat Williams “if you were playing your very best tennis”.
They’re not just asking whether people could beat Williams having been out for pints the night before and just had a dirty fry. No, they’re saying if they were playing their best tennis. The sort of tennis that only comes from playing once a year while Wimbledon is on the telly.
The fact that such a relatively large number of men replied in the positive gives us an insight into the mindset of those among us possessing the unmistakeable and misplaced confidence of people who have actually achieved something in their lives.
Whether it’s one in eight civilian men believing they could get a point against one of the greatest athletes to ever play sport, or someone like Boris Johnson believing that he and only he can force the European Union to bend the knee and grant the UK its dream Brexit deal, we are witnessing a unique period of human history in which – for a growing number of men – reality doesn’t impinge upon how they view themselves and the world around them.
The recent Women’s World Cup saw a similar phenomenon, with the men who haven’t played football since they were 16 stating confidently that they and a team of their peers would be quite easily able to defeat the professional footballers they were watching on the television. They would, of course, be battered.
This goes back to the “playing your very best” caveat in the YouGov poll. There are unfortunately a large and increasing swathe of men who believe that they – at their best – can do anything.
Everyone needs a degree of this if they want to succeed at anything in life, but it must be based on something – a desire to improve, a desire to learn, anything. This is belief based on a bloated sense of importance. It’s deluded.
Reality is hard. It forces you to confront uncomfortable truths such as the fact that Serena Williams would batter you and that, perhaps, Brexit won’t be as easy as you think. Rather than confront the reality in which we live, an increasing number of Brits, from armchair tennis pros to the man who will soon be PM, have decided to move to one where everything’s fine, and you can do anything just so long as you believe.